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Custom program developed for Health Science leaders

Health Sciences Leadership Series

A program designed to improve the leadership capabilities and communication skills of Health Sciences faculty members.

Visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website to register.

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Health Sciences faculty members spend years training for their roles as educators, researchers and scholars. In many cases, though, there aren'™t the same opportunities to develop specific skills required for their administrative and managerial duties.

The Office of Faculty Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences aims to change that by collaborating with the Human Resources Department on a new management development program. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will launch this September with the first cohort of 30 participants completing six full-day sessions throughout 2014-15.

"This program is modelled after one that myself and a number of other faculty had the opportunity to take several years ago," says Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education, Faculty of Health Sciences. "In retrospect, the content has proven to be highly relevant and practical. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development."

Human Resources designed the program specifically for Health Sciences faculty members. The material will cover challenges, situations and conflicts they will encounter in their day-to-day work. Dr. Sanfilippo says participants will gain a deeper understanding of their leadership capabilities, expand their communication skills, enhance their project management skills, and improve their ability to build relationships both within and outside their department.

The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development.

Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences.

With the Health Sciences Leadership Series, Queen's Human Resources Department continues to expand its leadership development programming. The department has offered a similar program for non-academic managers since 2009.

"œWe are excited to partner with the Faculty of Health Sciences to extend this valuable leadership training to their faculty members," says Al Orth, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources. "We are hopeful that the positive outcomes of this series will result in opportunities to work with other faculties on similar programs in the future."

The series has the added benefit of meeting the accreditation criteria for two professional organizations. It is an accredited group learning activity for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The program also meets the accreditation criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Online registration is now open with the first session slated to take place Sept. 16. More information is available on the Faculty of Health Sciences website or by contacting Shannon Hill, Learning Development Specialist, Human Resources, at ext. 74175.

The Conversation: Turning health data into a ‘wellness score’ might not be good for you

Like a credit report, a wellness report could collect health-related data to paint a picture of our health or document possible illnesses.

[Wearable health technology]
Apps, wearables and other devices collect an abundance of health-related information. (Photo by Crew)

Cameras watch us almost everywhere we go. We know the internet tracks our searches and purchases, and our smartphones can be used to monitor our activities too. As Queen's University sociologist David Lyon points out, “this is a culture of surveillance.”

In this watched world, our data is compiled into products to be used by businesses, not only to discover what we buy, but to understand how we are doing financially.

[The Conversation]Credit reports, compiled from the data associated with financial transactions, reveal a great deal about us: How much we owe, how much we can borrow, whether we make payments on time and the names of creditors that have accessed the file. These reports may also include “local public records, social networking patterns, academic achievement records, mobile phone usage and non-financial payment histories.”

I predict the next step in our watched world is the creation of a “wellness report” for each person. Like a credit report, a wellness report could collect all those little pieces of health-related data to paint a picture of our health or document possible illnesses.

Predicting the future

Wearable technology, smart watches and smartphones are already collecting our health data. They track your distance, speed and heart rate, and some can even note if your heartbeat was irregular.

But what if they went further, combining those little bits of data from wearable devices with medical appointments or food logs, stored in apps on your phone, plus the health products you buy and the prescriptions you fill, all recorded on your points card?

Many apps are already gathering information that is unrelated to their primary consumer use. For example, of the more than 300 apps studied by the Yale Privacy lab, 75 per cent host third-party trackers collecting data on our activities.

Taken together, a description of your health and behaviour begins to emerge.

Those who are very fit or healthy might see this as a good thing. However, technical glitches do occur and, when it comes to health, there is a wide range of “normal.” So, even if you are healthy, you could be at risk.

Health data could be used like credit data to group users based on their behaviour and risks and create categories of wellness that influence your choices going forward.

With credit scores, our future credit-worthiness is extrapolated from our current borrowing behaviour. Credit scores control access to homes, vehicles and other consumer items. They help some people, generally those with steady jobs, and hold back others, including those who work part-time or are underemployed and can’t always make payments on time.

The same might be true for a wellness report, with future illness probability derived from symptoms detected by your apps and wearable tech.

Higher costs

Banks, businesses and credit lenders provide financial support to credit-reporting companies. In return, they receive data that indicates their risk when they loan money. People with low credit scores are considered higher risk, and as a result, they have more difficulty getting loans or face a higher cost of borrowing — generally in the form of higher interest rates.

A wellness report could be a resource for private insurers, medicare and health-care providers to gauge the risk associated with providing a service. For example, a hypothetical wellness score — based on data collected and aggregated in novel ways — could determine how much you might pay for travel and health insurance — if you receive it at all.

[Wearable health technology]
Older adults may be especially vulnerable to the consequences of health surveillance. (Photo by Rawpixel)

In this hypothetical future, your travel insurance premiums might go up if your smart watch records heartbeat irregularities, especially if this is combined with data from an app that takes note of your appointment for a heart-screening test, or a points card that records your Aspirin purchase.

It’s also possible that your health data could negatively affect your eligibility for certain health and medical procedures. For example, a procedure might be denied if your wellness report indicated that you might have an undiagnosed illness that could lead to complications.

Unhealthy errors

Credit reports are built and maintained without permission or notifying the reportees. They are notoriously difficult to monitor and correct.

A wellness report, if developed, would face the same complications. Errors might take days or months to correct, and might require experts or medical tests to disprove.

Like credit reports, errors in data reporting could harm those with flawed reports. The harms to the individual will be far greater than the costs to insurers.

For example, what if you were drinking coffee like it was water to stay ahead of a deadline, and the data from your wearable device and phone apps merged to show that you had high blood pressure or a slightly elevated heart rate? If this data were compiled into a wellness report, you might find travel insurance more expensive — or skydiving school out of the question.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of health surveillance. Illness and disease become more common as we age, and the early warning signs may be detectable long before the disease impacts our lifestyle or behaviour. When it comes to health or travel insurance, older adults, many of whom who have fixed incomes, may be faced with higher premiums they just can’t handle.

And what if credit and wellness report data was combined? Where would that leave the vulnerable?

Although countries offer advice and safeguards to protect consumers, the only way prevent this kind of data collection and compilation is through legislation.

The ConversationWe need to talk about these privacy concerns now, and insist on government protection, before private insurers and health providers invest in novel applications of already existing data to create and use wellness reports to protect them from risks — not us.



Lisa F. Carver is a research associate in the Department of Medicine and adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Uncovering the brain effects of kidney disease

New research out of Queen's University offers intriguing insights into the kidney-brain connection.

Kidney disease doesn’t just affect a patient’s body, it’s hard on their brain too -- but no one really knows to what extent.

Now, new research by Queen’s University researcher Gord Boyd (School of Medicine) at Kingston Health Sciences Centre is offering intriguing insights into the kidney-brain connection that could change the way that kidney disease is assessed and treated in future.

For the first time, patients on dialysis are being assessed by the KINARM, a state-of-the-art robotic system developed at Queen’s University, to measure the brain effects of kidney disease. The KINARM precisely measures what’s happening in an individual’s brain or nervous system by testing their ability to perform ordinary movements and tasks.

Gord Boyd uses the KINARM to examine the connection between the kidneys and the brain. (Photo by Matthew Manor)

Leading the research is Dr. Boyd, a critical care doctor and neurologist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre who looks at the links between oxygen levels and brain injury in intensive care patients. He says the project was sparked by a casual conversation with Dr. Rachel Holden, a kidney disease specialist at KHSC whose patients are often in intensive care. “We were talking about sensors for tissue oxygenation in the brain, she suggested that we should use them on her patients,” says Dr. Boyd.

Early indications have been startling, he says. “We’ve been told by the KINARM team that our cohort of patients are some of the most cognitively impaired they’ve ever seen.”  

While there is some evidence showing that kidney disease, especially in its later stages, can affect some brain functions such as attention and memory, the conventional pen-and-paper tests used to track these effects produce variable and subjective results – and they can’t diagnose the motor effects of brain injury, says Dr. Boyd.

“There’s no gold-standard test for the effects of kidney disease, so it’s hard to know the patient’s degree of cognitive impairment,” says Jessica Vanderlinden, a PhD candidate who is working with Dr. Boyd on the project.

Over the past two years Dr. Boyd and Ms. Vanderlinden have been studying patients on hemodialysis, a four-hour procedure usually done in hospital, and patients on home dialysis, a less intensive process that cleanses the blood of the body’s toxins overnight. The patients do KINARM tests before beginning dialysis, then follow-up testing at three months and one year.

The researchers will compare patients’ test scores and oxygenation data to study which procedure – hemodialysis or home dialysis -- has the better effect on patients’ cognitive function.

They’ve now expanded the scope of their research to include patients at all stages of kidney disease – from mild to moderate, chronic and end stage, which requires dialysis.

They’re also collaborating with nephrologist Sam Silver to include patients with a single episode of acute kidney injury. “No one has ever looked at the brains of this specific group of patients,” Boyd says.

“We’re hoping to come up with a really good description of the neurological complications of kidney disease,” says Ms Vanderlinden.

This research could provide new insights on treating patients, the researchers say. For example, KINARM tests have shown visuo-spatial issues in some dialysis patients, so driving is a concern, Boyd says.

As well, it could show that hemodialysis itself may need to be re-examined, he says. “If hemodialysis patients have accumulated impairments, how can we make dialysis more gentle on the brain? Or it may suggest that we start dialysis sooner, or do transplants sooner.”

This data can also point to the need for end-of-life conversations. “If we know how much they are impaired, we can develop a plan to start these conversations with them, or if they’re very impaired, with their substitute decision-makers,” Boyd says.

Their work has been sponsored by the Queen’s Department of Medicine Innovation Fund and through equipment donated by the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation.



The first PhD candidates of the 10-year Mastercard Foundation partnership reflect on their first year at Queen’s, and how their experience will affect Ethiopia.

After a successful first year at Queen’s, Mulugeta Chala and Molalign Adugna are heading home to Ethiopia to conduct field research that will contribute to the foundation of an internationally accredited rehabilitation therapy program at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. Both are doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and participants in the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

Mulugeta Chala (left) and Molalign Adugna (right), doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, will return to Ethiopia for a year of data collection in the fall after their first year at Queen’s. (Photo: University Communications)
Mulugeta Chala (left) and Molalign Adugna (right), doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, will return to Ethiopia for a year of data collection in the fall after their first year at Queen’s. (Photo: University Communications)

Mr. Adugna taught sociology and worked as the Director of Continuing and Distance Educational Programs at the University of Gondar.

“My focus has shifted to rehabilitation from sociology for my PhD, and specifically on the nexus between stigma and inclusive education among children with disabilities in rural Ethiopia,” says Mr. Adugna. “I want to learn different stigma reduction strategies that work in Canada, and find which can be applied to Ethiopia. I also want to develop an intervention strategy for disability awareness for future Ethiopian researchers to practice.”

Mr. Chala is a physiotherapist, clinical educator, and coordinated the Office of Research Linkage and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Gondar to connect researchers with the local community.

“My focus is on chronic lower back pain. I’m hoping to develop a chronic pain self-management program customized to the Ethiopian context. Most programs used in developing countries copy strategies from Europe, the United States, and Canada. Those may work for a while, but they’re not sustainable because they lack the context of the developing country,” says Mr. Chala. “While at Queen’s, I want to gain the research skills to develop a research question, and also lay the foundation for the next generation of researchers in Ethiopia. We have a responsibility to train those that follow us.”

The doctoral students had a similar experience to many international graduate students from typically warmer climates; warned about snow, both bought many heavy jackets to fend off the cold.

“We had a lot of preparation, but I found the winter wasn’t bad. I come from the mountains area of Ethiopia, and we have a cold season,” says. Mr. Chala. “Bussing into the school and library made it not so bad.”

The cultural transition has been successful for both students, thanks to the support of the Queen’s and local community.

“I’ve been to the U.S. before, so I didn’t find it too different in Kingston,” says Mr. Adugna. “I’m impressed with the whole system, from infrastructure to transportation, and the Canadian education system. I had a culture shock at first, but people are very friendly at Queen’s and Kingston, so I feel very supported.”

“When we arrived in June, it was very green and beautiful in Kingston,” says Mr. Chala. “I think Kingston is beautiful, and a friendly place to live. It’s small, compared to Toronto, but I think that’s good for students.”

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is a 10-year, $24 million partnership that brought Queen’s and the University of Gondar together to support the growth of rehabilitation therapy at the Ethiopian university. The partnership, now in its second year, includes:

  • Scholarships for 450 undergraduate scholars, including those with disabilities and from areas of conflict, to study at Gondar,
  • 60 faculty members from the University of Gondar to study at the graduate level at Queen’s,
  • a Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) certificate, and
  • an internationally recognized occupational therapy curriculum at the University of Gondar.

Mr. Chala and Adugna return to Ethiopia for a work placement, and will be back at Queen’s for their second year of graduate course work.

To find out more about the Mastercard Foundation Scholar’s Program, check out the University of Gondar and Queen’s University partnership website and stay tuned for more highlights as the second cohort of graduate students prepare for their first semester at Queen’s.

A focus on global health and rehabilitation

Queen’s International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR) hosts first tri-university conference on global health and rehabilitation.

[Conference Executive Committee]
Some of the members of the conference’s Executive Committee, formed by members of Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, and McGill University. (Photo credit: Atul Jaiswal)

The first global health and rehabilitation conference run collaboratively between Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, and McGill University took place this weekend at Queen’s.

Scholars from the three participating universities and beyond came together for the Future Leaders in Global Health and Rehabilitation Conference 2018. They tackled global topics such as human rights, equity promotion, and global health research competencies.

“This is a first of its kind collaboration between the three disability- and rehabilitation-focused research centres, and may act as a stepping stone for larger engagement among students and faculty in global health research,” says Heather Aldersey, Director of the International Centre for the Advancement of Community-Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR) in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “Giving students and junior scholars a chance to connect with others interested in this field is a fantastic opportunity for them to share, learn and grow, and we were happy to host the first conference at Queen’s.”

The three centres that organized in the conferences included ICACBR, the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation at the University of Toronto, and the Global Health and Rehabilitation Initiative (GHRI) at McGill University. Community engagement funding from the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program supported the event. Many of the executive organizing committee members were Queen Elizabeth Scholars from low- and middle-income countries.

Students from disciplines such as law, engineering, social work, and geography joined health and rehabilitation students to discuss how to build capacity for global health research competencies, share the activities underway at each centre, and plan for future collaborations.

“This tri-university event provided a wonderful opportunity for the ICACBR to share how and what it has contributed to the developing and developed world in the global health and rehabilitation field,” says Atul Jaiswal, Executive Committee Member for the conference and doctoral candidate with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “Bringing three leading centres on this discipline together creates opportunities to collaborate and do much more than one centre can do on its own.”

The ICACBR began in 1991 with a mandate to advance the development of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) internationally. Since then, Queen’s has spearheaded CBR, disability, and global health initiatives in over 15 countries in Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific Region.

To learn more about ICACBR and their work within the School of Rehabilitation at Queen’s, visit their website.


Neurosurgeon DJ Cook named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40

Queen's associate professor and Kingston Health Sciences Centre physician recognized for innovative surgical and stroke research.

[Neurosurgeon DJ Cook named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40]
DJ Cook, a neurosurgeon at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and associate professor at Queen’s University, was named to the Canada's Top 40 Under 40. (Photo by Matthew Manor/Kingston Health Sciences Centre)

DJ Cook, neurosurgeon at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and associate professor at Queen’s University, has been named to the annual Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 list.

Dr. Cook was recognized for his work in developing minimally invasive surgical procedures for complex brain disorders, as well for his innovative research focusing on therapy and treatments to enhance recovery for patients who have suffered a stroke.

Dr. DJ Cook
Dr. DJ Cook
(Photo by Matthew Manor/Kingston Health Sciences Centre)

“This is a real honour. I know that a few neurosurgeons have been recognized in the past, but this is a list focused on leaders in the private sector. So, it’s a big honour to be considered for this award as a surgeon-scientist,” says Dr. Cook. “I think it speaks to the impact of the work we are doing at KHSC and Queen’s with the Translational Stroke Research Program.”

Each year Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 serves as a showcase for emerging leaders across the country. Founded in 1995 by the Caldwell Partners, Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 has recognized more than 680 outstanding Canadians since its inception.

Dr. Cook credits his nomination for this prestigious award to the strong, innovative environment provided through the clinician-scientist program offered by the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Association (SEAMO) in partnership with Queen’s and KHSC.

“I must also thank my highly-supportive partners in the neurosurgery program who help facilitate my sometimes overwhelming research schedule,” he says.

This year’s 40 winners were selected from over 800 nominees by an independent advisory board, comprising more than 20 business leaders from across Canada. Honourees were chosen on four key criteria: Vision and Innovation; Leadership; Impact and Influence; and Social Responsibility.

“It was a rigorous process that included a series of interviews with business leaders from across the country. I think the panel was interested in the impact our work is having in academia and the promise it holds for healthcare and our society,” says Dr. Cook. “It’s recognition that our research in stroke and neurosurgery is of interest to a broader audience who understand the potential benefit for patients worldwide.”

This year’s winners will be recognized at a gala event in Toronto in November.

Also making the list were five Queen’s alumni:

  • Neil Pasricha (Com’02), Best-selling author, speaker, thinker
  • Jamie Shea (Com’11), Co-founder and CEO, Chefs Plate
  • Patrick Meyer (Com’11), Co-founder and CSO, Chefs Plate
  • Andrew Turnbull (Artsci’01), Senior Vice President, Small Business Banking, CIBC
  • Allison Wolfe (Com’01), Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President, Finance and Strategy, Oxford Properties Group

The full list is available on the Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 website.

 – With files from Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Botterell Hall closed on Saturday, July 7, 2018

Botterell Hall will be closed on Saturday, July 7 between 6 am and 6 pm while contractors, working on behalf of Physical Plant Services, perform work on the building’s ventilation system. 

Only those personnel performing critical research will be permitted in the building while this shutdown is in progress. No fume hood activity will be permitted after the shutdown begins and fume hoods should not be used again until flows are verified by Environmental Health & Safety once the contractor’s scope of work is completed.

Five new Queen’s National Scholars announced

QNS program is designed to enrich teaching and research at the university while also supporting faculty renewal and diversity and inclusion efforts.

Designed to enrich teaching and research at the university, the Queen’s National Scholars (QNS) program has been bringing outstanding, early-career academics to Queen’s since 1985.

This year, five new faculty members will arrive on campus as Queen’s National Scholars, in fields of study from precision molecular medicine to African American gender history to computational neuroeconomics.

“The QNS program is an important initiative supporting our faculty renewal efforts, with a particular focus on newly-developing fields of knowledge,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), who co-chairs the QNS advisory committee. “The program is also an excellent opportunity to reinforce the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through its recruitment efforts.”

The 2018 QNS are:

Carolyn Prouse – Queen’s National Scholar in Urban Economic Geography
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Prouse’s research focuses on critical urban post-colonial geographies in South America; her work inhabits an exciting space that combines critical economic geography methodologies to explore issues around economic uncertainty, feminism, and racism. Dr. Prouse has a well-established teaching portfolio and is capable of developing and delivering new and interesting topics to students. She was awarded her PhD in 2017 from the University of British Columbia and, most recently, held a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto.

[Chantelle Capicciotti]Chantelle Capicciotti – Queen’s National Scholar in Precision Molecular Medicine
Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Capicciotti’s research focuses on identification and chemo-enzymatic synthesis of molecules (glycoconjugates: protein- and lipid-bound carbohydrates) that are crucial to a vast array of cellular recognition processes impacting human health and disease. The methodologies she has already developed, and those she plans to advance at Queen’s, are highly pertinent to the fields of disease biomarker discovery and modern biologic pharmaceutical design, both of which are primary goals of personalized medicine. She arrives at Queen’s from the University of Georgia.

Ashwini VasanthakumarAshwini Vasanthakumar – Queen’s National Scholar in Legal and Political Philosophy
Faculty of Law

Dr. Vasanthakumar’s research bridges law, philosophy, and politics. It is both theoretical and planted in the real world of lived experience and policy compromise. Her research focuses on migrants and migrant communities, exploring broader contexts of community membership, citizenship, allegiance, and transitional justice from the perspective of postcolonial states and migrant and other marginalized communities. Her most recent project seeks to understand the rights and duties of diaspora communities: in relation to each other, to compatriots remaining in their countries of origin, to victims and perpetrators of atrocities, and to their adopted countries. She arrives at Queen’s from King’s College London in England.

Laila HaidaraliLaila Haidarali – Queen’s National Scholar in African American Gender History
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Haidarali’s research is broadly concerned with race, gender, and representation in the study of African American women in 20th-century U.S. history. She engages the feminist politics of beauty to examine how mass-media representations and women’s self-styling efforts reflected one strand of civil rights activism that developed throughout the interwar decades. Dr. Haidarali’s work focuses on the rise of a beauty ideal that was defined by women’s brown complexions; she queries how and why an ideal of brown-skin beauty accrued heightened cultural currency during the era of African America’s mass modernization. She arrives from the University of Essex in England.

[Anita Tusche]Anita Tusche – Queen’s National Scholar in Computational Neuroeconomics
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Tusche’s area of research interest is computational neuroscience with a focus on social cognition and decision-making. Her work seeks to disentangle computations that are generic to decision‐making, specialized for social cognition, and their interaction. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a neurally‐informed cognitive model of social decision‐making that enables targeted, process‐specific modulations to foster prosocial, healthy, and sustainable behaviours. Her research uses a highly-interdisciplinary approach that utilizes insights and methodological tools of psychology, behavioral economics, neuroscience (with a focus on functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI), and computational modeling (machine learning techniques, drift diffusion modeling). Dr. Tusche arrives at Queen’s from the California Institute of Technology.

The program provides $100,000 annually for five years for each QNS and is intended to attract outstanding early and mid-career researchers to Queen’s.

Principal Daniel Woolf has identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of the academic mission. The five-year renewal plan will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the past six years and will result in approximately 10 net new hires per year.

Faculty renewal supports Queen’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by giving the university the opportunity to proactively seek representation from equity-seeking groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized individuals. Faculty renewal also facilitates the building of Queen’s current areas of research strength, as well as developing newly-identified emerging research priorities.  The program directly supports the objectives outlined in the Academic Plan, the Strategic Research Plan, and various other institutional planning documents.

More information about the Queen’s National Scholar program is available online.

Mentoring Indigenous youth

Queen’s and the Katarokwi Learning Centre of the Limestone District School Board are partnering on a pilot research mentorship program.

  • [The Indigenous mentoring program unites faculty, staff, and students at Queen’s with staff and students from the Limestone District School Board.]
    The Indigenous mentoring program unites faculty, staff, and students at Queen’s with staff and students from the Limestone District School Board. (University Communications)
  • [Nicole Morse, Natasha Vitkin, and Matteo Zago-Schmitt meet at Four Directions to plan exercises for their mentees.]
    Nicole Morse, Natasha Vitkin, and Matteo Zago-Schmitt meet at Four Directions to plan exercises for their mentees. (University Communications)
  • [Graduate students Shrutika Sukumar and Mohammad Azzam review lab safety with the high school students.]
    Graduate students Shrutika Sukumar and Mohammad Azzam review lab safety with the high school students. (University Communications)
  • [Mary-Jane Vincent explores the Anatomy Learning Centre]
    The Anatomy Learning Centre contains human body parts preserved in glass containers so students can study them. (University Communications)
  • [Ms. Vincent examines a model of a human brain in the Anatomy Learning Centre.]
    Mary-Jane Vincent, an Indigenous high school student, examines a model of a human brain in the Anatomy Learning Centre. (University Communications)

First Nations students in grades 10 and 11 have deepened their knowledge of science and health care with the help of some Queen’s graduate students.

The high-school students are participants in a pilot program aimed at giving them a leg up as they prepare for post-secondary studies. They met with their mentors from February through to the end of May.

“The vision of this program is to provide these students with a science-based education opportunity that leaves them feeling inspired, confident, and supported,” says Lisa Doxtator, Aboriginal Community Outreach Liaison at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and one of the program’s co-ordinators.

“Our hope is that the students will consider furthering their education in the sciences and will be better established for postsecondary success through this program,” adds Bruce Elliott, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine who is also one of the program’s co-ordinators. “The Four Directions Centre provides an ideal supportive home for our program.”

Working alongside Dr. Elliott and Ms. Doxtator are assistant co-ordinators, PhD student Chelsea Jackson and MSc graduate Sarah Nersesian; and graduate student mentors Nicole Morse, Natasha Vitkin, and Matteo Zago-Schmitt of the Queen's Collaborative Cancer Grad Program and the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.  

The mentors guide the students down one of two streams – a general stream, where the students learn about the scientific method through basic experiences; and a specific interest stream, where they complete a goal-driven project to gain experience in their area of interest.

“I wanted to get involved with the Research Mentorship program to combine my passion for science with my desire to give back to the Kingston community,” says Ms. Vitkin. “In our meetings, my mentee and I perform scientific experiments, go over key concepts, and discuss possible career paths and educational opportunities. I have really enjoyed creating a one-on-one discovery-based environment where my mentee and I learn from each other and explore key scientific concepts.”

Rounding out the team are Scott Nicol and Kelly Maracle, Indigenous Student Support and Engagement teachers with the Katarokwi Learning Centre of the Limestone District School Board (LDSB).

“For the school board, this program has created a post-secondary pathway for our students that attend the River Program at the Katarokwi Learning Centre,” says Ms. Maracle.

The pilot program currently includes three students from the education centre – this fall, the school board and Queen’s hope to expand the program to include more Indigenous students.

"The science mentorship was an enjoyable, interactive, and educational program,” says Mary-Jane Vincent, one of the students. “I enjoyed the variety of hands-on experiments like extracting DNA out of a strawberry and identifying differences between the mentor's and mentee's fingerprints."

As a final highlight, students and their mentors were invited to visit the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences’ Anatomy Learning Centre, where they were hosted by the Anatomy Pattern II program. During their visit, they viewed human body parts and tissues on microscope slides.

This mentorship program was funded by a $5,000 Canadian Institutes of Health Research Synpase grant. The school board has also covered some of the students’ costs.

Major pancreatic cancer breakthrough

Clinical trial results show pancreatic cancer patients nearly twice as likely to survive with new treatment.

Queen's University and CCTG researcher Jim Biagi discusses study results with clinical trial participant Kathleen Kennedy.
Queen's/CCTG researcher Jim Biagi discusses study results with clinical trial participant Kathleen Kennedy.

Clinical trial results presented today at a prestigious cancer meeting in Chicago show substantial increased survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients who received a four-drug chemotherapy combination known as mFOLFIRINOX after surgery. Pancreatic cancer is typically very aggressive, with only approximately eight per cent of people surviving beyond five years after diagnosis, even after surgery and the standard chemotherapy treatment.

Co-led by Jim Biagi, Interim Head of the Department of  Oncology at Queen’s University and researcher with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) headquartered at Queen's, the PRODIGE 24/CCTG PA.6 randomized phase III clinical trial showed that the risks of cancer recurring in post-operative pancreatic cancer patients was reduced by almost 50 per cent with the new chemotherapy regimen.

“The distressing part of pancreatic cancer is that only a small proportion of patients are candidates for surgery and, even if surgery is successful, most will die of recurrent disease,” says Dr. Biagi. “Our trial results demonstrate that patients who receive this treatment after surgery are almost twice as likely to survive. This is life changing for these patients and should impact how we treat pancreatic cancer around the world.”

Following successful surgery, 493 patients with pancreatic cancer were randomly assigned to receive either the current standard treatment (Gemcitabine) or the trial mFOLFIRINOX treatment for six months. On average, patients who received mFOLFIRINOX lived almost 20 months longer and were cancer-free nine months longer than those who received the standard treatment.

“A few months after my cancer diagnosis, I had surgery and then elected to try this experimental treatment,” says Kathleen Kennedy, a Kingston-area resident and one of the trial’s more than 100 Canadian participants. “I knew that there could be risks, but I also knew that it would be helpful – if not immediately to me, then for other pancreatic cancer patients in the future. Now, three disease-free years later, I feel so blessed that this treatment has afforded me more time with my husband, children, and grandchildren.”

The results suggest the new treatment regimen should become standard practice worldwide. There are also some next steps to explore, including experimenting with the timing of chemotherapy. Patients may benefit from receiving chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor, to destroy undetectable micro-metastases, and increase the chance that the tumor can be completely removed through surgery. Another option is to give half the cycles of chemotherapy before, and the other half after surgery. Ongoing clinical trials are already testing both of these approaches.

“I have great respect for patients who volunteer to participate in clinical trial research like ours,” says Dr. Biagi. “Despite the potential risks, they bravely step forward knowing that they could help not only themselves, but a great many people affected by the disease. It’s been an honour to work alongside them, and the results should give us all a great many reasons to be hopeful and excited for longer, healthier lives.”

The study’s co-lead is Thierry Conroy, medical oncologist and director of the Institut de Cancérologie de Lorraine in Nancy – one of the UNICANCER hospital network’s comprehensive cancer centres in France. Funding for the trial was provided by the Institut National du Cancer in France, the French national Ligue against cancer, cycling charity group 7 Days in May and the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Since 1980, more than 80,000 people have received excellent care at over 800 hospitals and cancer centres across the country in clinical trials that we funded. We’re obviously thrilled when discoveries from these trials improve survival and change the way cancer is treated worldwide,” says Judy Bray, Vice-President of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “We are committed to helping Canadians through the entire cancer journey by investing in research on prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and the quality of life of those affected by cancer.”

The PA.6 results were presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.


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